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Now playing in Clearwater: hi-rises & multiplexes

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Now playing in Clearwater: hi-rises and multiplexes

Ken Salgat

Staff writer

CLEARWATER -- A developer that plans to give the face of downtown Clearwater a makeover with three high-rise towers and 150 condominiums on 3.5 acres has added a 12-screen movie theater to the plan.

Clearwater Development LLC, a group of Mexico City-based developers, purchased the AmSouth building at 400 Cleveland St. in December 2003. Earlier this year, the company also closed on the $1.6-million purchase of a Cleveland Street storefront property formerly owned by Calvary Baptist Church.

The church is comprised of 28,000 square feet stretching from 401 to 428 Cleveland St. The owners have consolidated the AmSouth and Calvary properties and are planning a large redevelopment project, said Bill Horne, city manager. The project now could include a 12-screen movie theater complex, something the city has desired for more than a year.

"AmStar Entertainment LLC is the theater operator that we are working with," said Tom Wright, a spokesman for Clearwater Development. "We do not have any absolute dates, but we feel really good about it and are doing everything we can to get this done."

It's what the company does

AmStar was established in Birmingham, Ala., in 1998 to develop and operate state-of-the-art multiplex theaters.

The company's strategy is to build new multiplex theaters that feature stadium, or tiered, seating and digital stereo in each auditorium, a statement on its Web site shows.

AmStar has agreed to manage a proposed 12-screen cinema along Cleveland Street, between Osceola and Fort Harrison avenues. The company runs five theaters in the Southeast, including one near Orlando.

The company's building strategy is supported by strong public demand for stadium theaters, which have proven so popular with moviegoers that they tend to become a market's theater of choice.

AmStar's primary objective is to develop a theater circuit comprised of these amenity-rich theatres, ranging from 12 to 20 auditoriums at each location. Development efforts are concentrated in metropolitan markets with a retail trade area of 100,000 to 500,000 people primarily located in the eastern and southeast United States.

AmStar's CEO, Stephen L. Colson, confirmed his company's involvement in the Clearwater project but would not comment on the development in particular.

Competitor didn't meet city criteria

Two firms responded to a request for proposal issued by the city earlier this year. The other proposal, presented by construction company Beck Development, was thrown out because that group did not meet the city's criteria, particularly because they did not have enough property, Geri Campos, acting economic development director, said.

"We'll begin discussions on parking and other specifics once negotiations officially begin, hopefully within the year," said Campos.

The city has been without a movie theater since AMC closed two Clearwater theaters in 2000, shortly after the company opened a 20-screen megaplex in Oldsmar.

To push the pedestrian downtown theme, Campos said the city plans to again seek publicly funded improvements to Coachman Park. In March, a referendum was voted down. Campos said although the people have spoken, city officials believe the improvements are an integral piece to the downtown redevelopment puzzle.

"From our research, we feel there is a need for a very exciting pedestrian space, which the park offers," said Campos. "We think its something the residents will want."

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